Para-cyclist Fin Graham aims for success in the World Road Championships

Paracyclist Fin Graham in action during the Paralympics in Tokyo
Graham was the youngest member of the GB cycling team at the Paralympics in Tokyo

Double Paralympic silver medalist Fin Graham is hoping his happy memories of Canada can translate to success at this week’s para-cycling road world championships.

The 22-year-old won two golds when the Quebec city of Baie-Comeau hosted a World Cup series in 2020.

And the same venue will host the Worlds, which run from Thursday to Sunday.

“It will be good to go back to where I know I’ve done well before,” Graham told BBC Sport.

“I have a 100% record there at the moment and hope it continues, but I’m under no illusions. It’s a world championship and is the hardest race every year.

“Everybody wants to win that rainbow jersey but I’m not going to let that pressure get to me. I’m going to go in and enjoy it like I always do and hopefully I can come away with the results.”

Graham made his Paralympic debut in Tokyo last year, winning silver on the track in the C3 individual pursuit, breaking the world record only for teammate Jaco van Gass to surpass it and grab gold.

He then claimed a second silver in the C1-3 road race behind fellow GB rider Ben Watson and will now hope to build on his road race bronze from last year’s world championships on Sunday after opening the championships with Friday’s time trial.

Scotch is part of one 14-strong GB teamwhich also includes 17-time Paralympic champion Sarah Storey who will be hoping to add to their 11 world road titles, and fellow Tokyo medalists Watson, George Peasgood and tandem pair Sophie Unwin and Jenny Holl.

Born with bilateral talipes, which has left him with no calf muscles and little or no movement in his ankles, Graham took up mountain biking in his native Strathpeffer, north of Inverness.

“Growing up, my parents would encourage me to do and try everything,” he says. “They didn’t let me use my disability as an excuse.

“My mother told me that when I was in elementary school and entered a track race, my teacher wanted to give me a head start because of my disability. I would have been well prepared for that because I would have won easily, but my mother pushed and told me I didn’t need any special treatment.”

Watching the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics proved to be a game changer for Graham and he approached British Cycling to find out if he could qualify for Para sport.

Five years later he enjoyed what he describes as a “phenomenal experience” in Tokyo where every member of the GB cycling team won at least one medal either on the velodrome or on the road.

Fin Graham and Jaco van Gass with their Paralympic medals
Graham (left) and Van Gass shared the podium at the Izu Velodrome

And his progress has continued this season with gold in both the time trial and road races at the World Cup events in Germany and Belgium in May.

“Going and winning the World Cups was something I didn’t expect but has given me a lot of confidence,” he says.

“I was probably in better shape there than I was in Tokyo, and it shows that I’m still improving as an athlete. It also shows that I can challenge and compete and be at the top of these races.”

As well as dealing with his impairment, Graham was diagnosed with the autoimmune condition lupus when he had just turned 18, which means he has to take daily medication.

A bout with Covid in July has hampered his preparations for Canada, but with the World Track Championships in France at the end of October and a World Championships on home soil in Scotland next year, he has more high-profile medal chances on the horizon.

“Having Covid hasn’t been ideal, but I’d done well to avoid it for too long. Lupus means I pick up colds and bugs much more easily and they last longer,” he explains.

“I didn’t test positive for a long time and before that training was going well. I’m still probably not 100% but I’m improving every day.

“But things like this happen – I still want to give it my best. It might not be the best timing, but it’s worth fighting for and if the results come, it will make it sweeter.”

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